Pizza Palooza? What’s that about?

Ron Pikul, owner of Mama’s Artisan Pizzeria, serves up his pizza during the Prescott Pizza Palooza on Saturday, Oct. 21, downtown. (Max Efrein/Courier)

Ron Pikul, owner of Mama’s Artisan Pizzeria, serves up his pizza during the Prescott Pizza Palooza on Saturday, Oct. 21, downtown. (Max Efrein/Courier)

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A pizza tossing competition was among several attractions at the first Pizza Palooza in Prescott on Saturday, Oct. 21. (Max Efrein/Courier)

The smell hit me before I could even see what was going on.

It’s a smell most Americans are all too familiar with. One capable of making your mouth water and your belly rumble.

It was the smell of pizza, and anyone within a block of downtown Prescott between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 21, likely got a whiff of it as well.

Consuming Goodwin Street on the south side of the Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza was the first-ever Pizza Palooza. Seven vendors dishing up about 20 different types of pizza participated in the tasting festival.

For $15, adults were allowed to try 10 of the pies. Among the options were gluten free barbecue, buffalo chicken, and pesto with ricotta, grilled chicken, red onions, artichokes, tomato, basil and mozzarella.

2017 Pizza Palooza winners

Best traditional pizza ($500 purse): Rosati’s Pizza

Best gluten free pizza ($500 purse): Two Mamas

Gourmet Pizzeria

Best exotic pizza ($500 purse): Mama’s Artisan

Pizzeria

Best dessert ($500 purse): Papa John’s

People’s choice

First place ($500 purse): Mama’s Artisan Pizzeria

Second place ($350): Two Mamas Gourmet Pizzeria

Third place ($150): Rosati’s Pizza

Honorable mentions ($50): Little Caesars, Pizza Hut

and Prescott Meals on Wheels

Favorite pizzas (a must try):

Pizza Hut: Four Pepper Pepperoni

Mama’s Artisan Pizza: Mama’s Pesto Special

Two Mama’s Gourmet Pizza: Chicago Combo

Little Caesar: Supreme

Prescott Meals On Wheels: Stuffed Pretzel Bites

Papa John’s: Buffalo Chicken

Rosati’s: Pepperoni and Sausage

In addition to being an opportunity for them to market their local eateries, the vendors were vying for prize money. The four prize categories were for traditional, gluten free, exotic, and dessert. The winner of each received $500. There was also a People’s Choice Award and a number of honorable mentions. Overall, there was $3,500 in prize money given out.

Being the first festival of its kind in the area, many had very little idea of what to expect, but they were game to give it a try.

“I mean, is there anything more fun than Pizza Palooza?” said attendee Jackie Nuccio.

In other words, one is hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t enjoy pizza of some variety. And given the innovation that has rapidly taken hold of much of the culinary world, the varieties are endless.

“Now with gluten free and veggie options, there’s a little bit of something for everybody,” said Tina Blake, who came up with the idea to host such an event.

Blake works for Prescott Meals on Wheels and thought this would be a great way to fundraise for the nonprofit.

Getting the event off the ground proved a little more difficult than she imagined.

“The most difficult thing was getting people to grasp the concept that anybody could participate,” Blake said. “Any restaurant or pizzeria. It didn’t matter. It’s just about celebrating pizza during pizza month.” (That’s right. There’s a national pizza month, and we’re smack dab in the middle of it.)

While there weren’t quite as many vendors as she hoped for, she’s pumped to grow this thing she has created.

“There’s so much opportunity to grow,” Blake said. “I’m hoping that we can take up the whole square one year.”

The event also sported a children’s area, soda zone and a beer garden.